Major League Soccer on ABC/ESPN

ESPN and Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm of U.S. pro league Major League Soccer (MLS), have reached an agreement to put MLS games on the ABC/ESPN networks through 2014.

As previously reported in B&C (July 31 issue), the deal includes a package of Thursday night regular-season games for ESPN2, and a post-season package that will continue to put the league’s championship match, MLS Cup, on ABC.

ESPN2 each year will air 26 regular-season games and 3 playoff games, while ABC will carry three games annually. ESPN is responsible for production of all the games.

The deal is in line with ABC/ESPN’s recent acquisition of the World Cup through 2014.

MLS now has deals with Fox Soccer Channel, HDNet and ABC/ESPN, and is in negotiations for a fourth package with Univision.

The current deals will bring in upwards of $15 million annually. Sources with knowledge of the deals put the ABC/ESPN deal at $7-8 million per year, Fox Soccer Channel at $5 million per year, and HDNet at $2-3 million per year.

While international soccer’s World Cup has established itself as a major television property every four years, this marks the first time the 11-year-old MLS has commanded rights fees, a huge boon for the growing league.